"Have you thought about adoption?" It's a sentence every out-of-the-closet IVF-er hears at least several times during their assisted conception (AC) journey. It's one of the classic pieces of advice that well meaning, but utterly uninformed friends and relatives like to give. To help.
I can't count the number of times I have heard the adoption line, and for the record, yes, we have looked into it.
A minuscule amount of Australian children are adopted each year, and despite what the trash mags would have you believe, it's just not that easy to adopt one of the millions of orphans across the world. Not from Australia at least.
According to the the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, a total of 441 children were adopted in Australia between 2008-2009. 68 of those were local adoptions, 269 were inter-country adoptions, and the remainder were "known child" adoptions. Of the 14 countries Australia currently has adoption programs with, my husband and I are eligible for exactly 8.
While we have no preference, a child from South America would be nice. For no other reason than I speak, or used to speak, Spanish and I love the cultures of the three South American countries that currently have open programmes with Australia - Chile, Bolivia and Colombia. Our sponsored child is also from Bolivia, so we have an extremely tenuous connection to the place.
And phew for infertility, because it appears to bump us up the list a bit. Especially in the case of Chile, where we would need to have been married for a minimum of two years otherwise.
As for the other countries with programmes open to Australia, China is no good (married less than two years); Ethiopia no good (married less than two years, aren't religious); Fiji we are acceptable, but the odds of being placed with a Fijian child are slim to none; Hong Kong, no good. Married less than three years; India, OK, but unlikely considering neither of us have Indian heritage; Lithuania, looks ok, but children are older or sibling groups; Philippines, no good. Agnostics are not eligible; South Korea - married less than three years; Sri Lanka, Yes!! and infertility with supporting medical documents is a requirement; Taiwan, no good. Married less than five years; Thailand, no problems. And preference is given to infertile couples.
So yes, well meaning friend or acquaintance, we have thought about adoption.
But adoption is just the first of many, many pieces advice I have been lucky enough to receive. Just the other night I was at farewell drinks for a couple of colleagues, chatting to a New Dad about our conception efforts, when he trotted out the classic that every makes every ACer seethe. Relax. Just relax and it will happen. Said colleague started telling me about his friends who were in their 40s, trying for years, IVF etc etc, and they decided to just forget about it and not try, et voila! Instantly pregnant. It's almost too easy!
Another favourite is ye olde donor. As in "Have you thought about a donor?" My ex-barista (yes, I told you I talk to everyone) asked me if my husband had a brother. Erm, well yes, but... Thanks, but no thanks. And since the NSW government restricted the import of foreign sperm, together with tightening rules governing privacy for sperm donors, meaning donor conceived children can access details of their donor once they hit 18, means that there isn't much donated sperm doing the rounds of the fertility clinics these days.
My final favourite piece of advice comes from one of my closest friends.
Why not go out one night, at the right time of the month of course, get absolutely legless on cocktails and champagne, pick up a decent looking bloke with a passing resemblance to my husband, and, despite the risk of STDs and other nasties, have a night of illicit bonking. While my husband remains at home unawares of course, and three weeks later I announce the "miracle" pregnancy we have all been hoping for.
Here's my advice to those well meaning people. We have heard it all before. We have considered all of your suggestions, and despite what the journal of anecdotal medicine might tell you, you don't know best.
I can tell you right now, any couple on a long term assisted conception journey has relaxed, taken vitamins, done acupuncture, seen a naturopath, considered adoption, considered donor eggs/sperm, had a holiday, quit a stressful job, "not tried", meditated, consulted a Chinese doctor and taken the herbs, read "this fantastic book that really helped my friend who had been trying for years", stopped drinking/smoking, eaten organic, avoided coffee, chocolate and coke and believe me, if they are still going after that, your well meaning, but ultimately ignorant advice is not wanted.
But they are probably too polite to tell you, and just smile and nod. It becomes second nature after a while.
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I thought that all it took was a bottle of shiraz, a Dolce & Gabanna balconette bra and matching knickers and hey presto, nine months later, a bouncing baby boy or girl would emerge from my nether regions.